The largest Porsche dealership in the country, Copans Motors Inc., known as Champion Porsche in Pompano Beach, has revved its legal engines at marketing vice president Shiraaz Sookralli, his wife, Vimla K. Sookralli, and their alleged “fictitious entity” Champion Autosport after the pair allegedly hit the road with $2.5 million in customer deposits.
It could be the biggest fraud case Porsche Cars North America has seen.
“I have represented this client for more than 25 years and I have never had a situation or seen a situation like this in the entirety of the time that I’ve represented this client,” said Roy A. Diaz of SHD Legal Group in Plantation.
According to Diaz, the dealership had no idea Sookralli had produced fraudulent buyer deposit agreements to lure clients into ordering dozens of exclusive 911 GT3 and GT3 RS models.
Buyers thought they were ordering a limited-edition Porsche, but according to the complaint, “such vehicles did not exist, nor would Shiraaz place an order” for them.
Alarm bells first rang at the dealership on Sept. 4 when a Champion Porsche customer couldn’t reach Sookralli to ask him about the status of a car he’d ordered. Sookralli hadn’t shown up to work that day, or the week prior.
According to Diaz, a sales manager then ran the customer’s name through the database.
“You’re not in the system,” the manager told the customer.
That incident fueled further inquiry. Later, a broker contacted the sales manager about a few other customers who did business with Sookralli, asking to have their names checked against the dealership’s system.
“That’s when they realized something was wrong,” Diaz said. ”They then realized that Mr. Sookralli had not been registering any of these transactions through the dealership’s computer system. There was nothing.”
According to the complaint, Sookralli has worked with the company for roughly 10 years, has 10 children and “has had serious financial troubles throughout the payment of child support and money judgments against him.”
The Sookrallis have been served by substitute service at their home address, but their whereabouts are “currently unknown,” according to Diaz.
“We’re waiting for them to step forward to defend themselves so that we can deal with them,” Diaz said.
Jade Logan, corporate spokeswoman for Porsche Cars North America, said in a statement, “The dealer involved made us aware of this unfortunate situation. Champion Porsche has assured us it will help Porsche buyers who might have been impacted and is asking those customers to give their information to Champion’s legal counsel.”
Daniel Stermer of Development Specialists Inc. in Miami has more than 20 years of experience in the private and public sector, and specializes in fraud and consumer protection.
“Sometimes people get overly exuberant or excited about something that sounds good and let their guards down,” Stermer said.
The way Stermer sees it, Sookralli appears to have taken “full advantage of people’s desire and willingness to turn over funds to make sure they were in line” to get a ”limited commodity.”
“Consumers need to ensure that when they think they’re dealing with a car dealership, a real estate firm, whatever it is, that they’re actually dealing with them. They may have known the salesman but the question becomes, where were they sending their funds? Were they receiving confirmation back from the dealership compared to just the salesman?” Stermer said.
For Stermer, this lawsuit is the latest example of South Florida’s problem with fraud.
“If you grab the United States by Florida, literally like it’s a handle, tip it over and shake it, the bad stuff seems to make its way here to South Florida,” Stermer said. “People get this impression, when they deal with a Florida address, of sunshine and making money. I was honestly amazed when I first got here in 2000, to see how much of it was here.”
The incident has generated ”a lot of negative social media” for Champion Porsche, which wants to “carefully preserve” its reputation.
“A lot of it is just inaccurate information, a lot of it is a lack of understanding,” Diaz said. “My client is going to stand by all of the customers that were impacted. And this is not reimbursement because my client never received the money. They are going to go out of pocket and compensate (customers) for the money they turned over to Mr. Sookralli. Champion will then pursue recovery of that, to the extent it’s recoverable, against Mr. Sookralli and the other defendants.”